ITD’s asphalt laboratory is constantly testing better roads

BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Department of Transportation Asphalt Laboratory is responsible for quality testing to ensure the roads you drive on are durable and safe.

  • ITD’s asphalt laboratory is busy
  • They test both concrete and black asphalt
  • They also test for white and yellow stripes

(The following is a transcript of the entire broadcast.)

Before you drive over them, concrete and black asphalt must be carefully examined, explains lab manager Chad Clawson.

“We take cement and melt it. Actually, we melt powder until it's liquid. Then we pour it out and it forms clear lenses through which you can shine light. That tells us what elements are in the cement sample.”

And it's not just about the road itself, the yellow and white stripes also have to meet certain standards so that we can see them clearly at night.

“We test de-icing paints and glass beads and make sure the glass beads are the right size so that they reflect the light back into our eyes at night and the stripes are visible even in the evening.”

I always asked Clawson what makes a good highway.

“On the one hand, it is important whether the workmanship is good, whether good materials are used, whether the materials are mixed evenly, whether there is good quality control everywhere and whether the effect is consistent.”

Idaho's highways are also plagued with potholes, so road workers keep a close eye on the road surface.

“An example of a core sample taken from the roadway shows rock fragments of different sizes, the asphalt binder can be seen between the rock particles and, upon closer inspection, air pockets can be seen.”

It is easy to get lost in terms like rotational viscosity and elastic recovery, but the bottom line of all these tests is…

“In the long run, it reduces costs. We put a lot of effort into design and construction and when both come together, we get good, long-lasting roads.”

Anna Harden

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